Latest theatre reviews

Find out what our theatre team made of London's new openings

Princess Ida

What a bizarre piece this is! Gilbert and Sullivan’s opera ‘Princess Ida’ opened in 1847 and was based on a Tennyson poem, ‘The Princess: A Medley’. It’s a satire on feminism and Darwinism to boot, and hasn’t been performed in over 20 years. Director Phil Willmott has evened out the tricky libretto and restructured the work but it still feels like an old-fashioned, flat-footed work.

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Finborough Theatre Until Saturday April 18 2015

The Three Lions

A posh boy, a politician and a plonker, or rather, Prince William, David Cameron and David Beckham, are the titular lions in this satirical farce about what went on behind closed doors during the UK’s 2010 bid for the world cup. William Gaminara’s comedy imagines their conversations as they worked out tactics on how to lobby Fifa delegates in a hotel room in Zurich over 48 hours.

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St James Theatre Tuesday March 31 2015 - Saturday May 2 2015

The Chair

It may be set on the docks of Tiger Bay in Cardiff, but  Lewis Gibson’s fantastical, spooky play for ages seven and up takes you to many more unexpected places. Bald-headed barber Owain Sawyers, cutthroat razor in hand, transports us to India, America, Egypt and back again as he blends an intoxicating mix of old-world yarns.

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Unicorn Theatre Until Sunday April 12 2015

Die Entführung

Pop-Up Opera has built its reputation on a roster of slick and inventive small-scale productions. This one, however, is unlikely to be added to that list. Mozart’s romantic comedy ‘The Escape from the Seraglio’ is mostly nonsense in the first place, but this update from Turkish harem to a ‘beauty boot camp’ run along the lines of ‘Big Brother’ is simply unfathomable.

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Dalston Department Store Sunday April 12 2015 - Friday April 17 2015

Rules for Living

Plays cannot live by rules alone, but Sam Holcroft makes a good go of trying in her suburban comedy of manners. It’s about a mildly dysfunctional, moderately posh family who attempt to contain their Christmas day conflicts by adhering to a strict set of rules. Disorienting as it may be scheduling a Christmas comedy at Easter, the matriarch of the family Deborah Findlay has a long list of rules including a ban on talk of ‘sex, death and global warming’.

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National Theatre Tuesday March 31 2015 - Wednesday July 8 2015

Harvey

It’s tricky revisiting something you loved. The 1950 film adaptation of ‘Harvey’ – starring film legend Jimmy Stewart – is a hardy perennial. But watching Lindsay Posner’s handsomely mounted revival of Mary Chase’s original 1944 play often requires as much suspension of disbelief in the whole script as it does in the idea of a giant invisible rabbit.

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Haymarket Theatre Royal Monday March 30 2015 - Saturday May 2 2015

These Trees Are Made of Blood

Evita is dead. Gone are Argentina’s glory days and the schmaltz of Lloyd Webber’s historical whitewash. Between 1974 and 1983 the country was under a reign of terror, oppressed by a right-wing junta that made tens of thousands of people disappear. Theatre Bench’s show compresses Argentina’s Dirty War into a seedy cabaret bar – the Coup Coup Club.

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Southwark Playhouse Monday March 30 2015 - Saturday April 11 2015

A Breakfast of Eels

Like the storm which bridges its final acts, Robert Holman’s play swells, pregnant with meaning and guarded, overcast silences, before breaking into beautiful, painful torrents. A family drama that begins with two orphans on the morning of their father’s funeral, it’s built quietly from a series of counterpoints and contradictions, as two very different men play out what it means to outlive their childhoods, and what inheritances they are inevitably burdened with.

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Print Room Monday March 30 2015 - Saturday April 11 2015

Sweeney Todd

Critics' choice

If the West End won’t come to Tooting, then Tooting must come to the West End. Tooting Arts Club’s plucky site-specific production of Sondheim’s gory Victoriana masterpiece ‘Sweeney Todd’ caused a big splash in SW17 when it debuted at the venerable Harrington’s Pie and Mash last year. But how to transfer it when the staging is everything?

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Harrington's Pie and Mash Shop (West End) Monday March 30 2015 - Saturday May 30 2015

Buyer & Cellar

Barbra Streisand fans should rouse themselves from their cryogenic slumbers and get down to this über-camp confection that’s flown in from New York.

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Menier Chocolate Factory Until Saturday May 2 2015

The Royale

Critics' choice

Bam! ‘The Royale’ is a real knockout, a relentlessly gripping boxing drama that sees Bush Theatre boss Madani Younis really flex his directorial muscles. US writer Marco Ramirez’s play is a fictionalised but thematically accurate account of the rise of Jack Johnson (1878-1948), the first African American heavyweight champion of the world, and the first black man to be allowed to box for that title.

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Bush Theatre Monday March 30 2015 - Saturday April 18 2015

The Broken Heart

Critics' choice

Once more the exquisite surroundings of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse provide a backdrop for the most craven of emotions in this witty, assured revival of John Ford’s turbulent classic. 'The Broken Heart' opens with a happy and carefree Orgilus carrying his betrothed love Penthea onto the stage and embracing her.

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Sam Wanamaker Playhouse Tuesday March 31 2015 - Saturday April 18 2015

The Cutting of the Cloth

Sewing scissors at dawn! ‘The Cutting of the Cloth’ is a tale of two tailors: one a master of the handmade craft, the other a whizz with the sewing machine. Written by Michael Hastings, best known for his 1984 play ‘Tom and Viv’, it’s a finely crafted character study that’s a little frayed around the edges.

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Southwark Playhouse Monday March 30 2015 - Saturday April 4 2015

Shrapnel: 34 Fragments of a Massacre

The ‘fragments’ of Anders Lustgarten’s provocative new play are a bitter reference to the 34 villagers blown apart by a US-led drone strike on a mountain pass between Turkey and Iraq in 2011. There were only a handful of survivors from the group wrongly identified as Kurdish terrorists, who were in fact farmers smuggling diesel on donkeys.

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Arcola Theatre Monday March 30 2015 - Thursday April 2 2015

Stevie

Watching this bioplay about poet Stevie Smith is a bit like pulling up a comfy armchair with a slice of Battenberg, and then having someone like Stewart Lee turn up to entertain you.Hugh Whitemore’s 1977 play goes some way to demonstrate a little of Smith’s intriguing, eccentric contrasts.

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Hampstead Theatre Monday March 30 2015 - Saturday April 18 2015

Sweeney Todd

Critics' choice

If the West End won’t come to Tooting, Tooting must come to the West End. Tooting Arts Club’s plucky site-specific production of Stephen Sondheim’s gory Victoriana masterpiece caused a big splash in SW17 when it debuted at the venerable Harrington’s Pie and Mash Shop last year. But how to transfer it when the staging is everything?

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Harrington's Pie and Mash Shop (West End) Monday March 30 2015 - Saturday May 30 2015

The Father

August Strindberg’s 1887 drama is probably best avoided by newlyweds and parents-to-be. At the centre of this domestic tragedy is a startlingly vicious battle between a father and mother over the fate of their child. It turns them both demonic, one red-faced and raging with madness, the other cool, collected and horribly ruthless.

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Trafalgar Studios Monday March 30 2015 - Saturday April 11 2015

The Broken Heart

Critics' choice

Once more the exquisite surroundings of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse provide a backdrop for the most craven of emotions in this witty, assured revival of John Ford’s turbulent classic. 'The Broken Heart' opens with a happy and carefree Orgilus carrying his betrothed love Penthea onto the stage and embracing her. Moments later black hooded men violently separate the couple.

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Sam Wanamaker Playhouse Tuesday March 31 2015 - Saturday April 18 2015

My Night with Reg

Critics' choice

Given that theatre is not exactly an art form synonymous with staunch heterosexuality, it’s surprising how few shows about LGBT lives make it into the West End. But Kevin Elyot’s poignant comedy ‘My Night with Reg’ is deservedly doing so for the second time. Robert Hastie’s pitch-perfect 20-year-anniversary revival for the Donmar has bagged itself a transfer, as did the original Royal Court production.

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Apollo Shaftesbury Monday March 30 2015 - Saturday April 11 2015

Bad Jews

Critics' choice

'Bad Jews' transfers with the original cast to the Arts Theatre in the West End from Mar 18. This review is of the show's run at St James Theatre. Family tensions are bound to run high when a loved one dies. But in this hilarious new comedy from Joshua Harmon, you frequently wonder whether a tragic death might actually provoke a bloody murder. Three cousins are lumped together in a one-room apartment in New York because ‘the most important person’ in their family, their Holocaust survivor grandfather, has died.

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Arts Theatre Monday March 30 2015 - Saturday May 30 2015

Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Kurt Weill’s librettist was none other than revolutionary director and playwright Bertolt Brecht, who purported to believe that his scathing satire on rampant capitalism, subversively presented in the bourgeois form of opera, would cause a riot. He was right, it did. But that was back in 1930, when Nazi sympathisers disrupted performances and the Wall Street Crash was fresh in the memory.

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Royal Opera House Wednesday April 1 2015 - Saturday April 4 2015
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